Published December 19, 2012, 07:00 AM

Judge sides with state, safety on night deer hunts

MADISON — A federal judge upheld Wisconsin’s ban on “deer shining” defeating an attempt by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission to establish an off-reservation night deer hunting.

By: By Kevin Murphy/For the Superior Telegram, Superior Telegram

MADISON — A federal judge upheld Wisconsin’s ban on “deer shining” defeating an attempt by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission to establish an off-reservation night deer hunting.

District Judge Barbara Crabb denied GLIFWC’s request for a preliminary injunction against the state’s ban, concluding the state had proven after a two-day hearing last week that its restriction on the Chippewa’s hunting rights is narrowly designed to protect public safety.

In 1990, Crabb ruled that tribes can enact their own hunting regulations that are “identical in scope and content” to state regulations. After the state permitted wolf hunting at night in a law passed in July, GLIFWC sought to permit night deer hunting. In addressing the state’s safety concerns, they claimed its ordinance had safety requirements lacking from the wolf hunting law. They also contended they were entitled to enact a regulation under a provision that permits them to act when the state unreasonably withholds their permission after engaging in negotiations.

While the tribes raised legitimated concerns about the fairness the state’s different treatment of wolf and deer hunting, Crabb said the commission’s night hunting order was premature because it wasn’t agreed to by the state or the court.

“The proper response cannot be for each side to decide on its own what the law permits, particularly with an issue like this one that involves public safety concerns. In these circumstances, it is essential that the parties exercise restraint and use the proper channels to resolve their dispute … I am deciding only that plaintiffs did not have authority to amend the judgment on their own,” Crabb wrote in the 15-page opinion.

Crabb also wrote that she hoped the parties would meet during the next several months and agree on measures that “adequately addresses defendants’ safety concerns and provides due respect for plaintiffs’ treaty rights.”

Commission spokesperson Sue Erickson said the Chippewa will continue to pursue night deer hunting through negotiations with the state and possible court action.

“It’s important to note that (Crabb’s) judgment was on the proceeding and not the substance of night hunting and safety issues. We will continue to negotiate with the state, and if that fails, we’ll be back in court to seek an amendment to the judgment,” Erickson said.

The commission suspended its night hunting order on Nov. 28 for a season that was to run from Nov. 26- Jan. 6.

In a prepared statement Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp said she was pleased with the decision.

“The DNR Secretary, the department, and the state have maintained that the process established by the courts and the parties must be followed. The state will continue to work in good faith toward resolving the numerous issues surrounding the state’s management of natural resources within the ceded territory and their potential overlapping impacts with the Chippewa’s treaty established rights to self-regulate their own harvest,” Stepp wrote.

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